Sam Merrill deserves a chance to play with the full roster soon
One player who has had perhaps the biggest leap for the Cavaliers in this stint but may not actually get a major role eventually is veteran sharpshooter Sam Merrill. Merrill came to the Cleveland via the Cleveland Charge last year and signed a non-guaranteed contract for this year and next. When Garland and Mobley first went down, Merrill shocked the world with back-to-back career nights from deep against the Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz.
Merrill's jaw-dropping 45.3 percent from 3-point range on 4 attempts per game is an astounding statistic, and it is a big reason why the Cavaliers have found success from deep over this time. As tremendous as Merrill's heroics have been as of late, his long-term fit on the Cavs is not an easy answer.
Over his career, Merrill has proven his consistency as a shooter without failure. The impressive statistics typically end there, though. He has never averaged more then one assist per game in a season and cannot earn reliable minutes with any team he has joined. Defensively, he is a liability with a 6-foot 4-inches build and poor decision making.
In the modern NBA, it is hard to find a real role on any playoff contender without being a factor on both ends of the court. When the Cavs signed Strus and Georges Niang this summer, they were banking on their offensive growth being less drastic than the defensive drop they knew they would face. Thankfully, Strus has been much better on defense than anybody expected. For Merrill, however, the Cavs are reaching their limit on shorter wings.
With Okoro's offensive growth and continued defense, finding a nightly spot in the rotation for Merrill could prove difficult. What he has earned, though, is a chance to play with the stars as a 3-point specialist. The Cavaliers likely signed Merrill for that specific purpose, coming off the bench to get hot from deep whenever he is called upon.
One lesson the Cavaliers have learned in this time is that they have shooters, and they need to use them more. The jump from twelfth to first in 3-pointers attempted is not a meaningless statistic. Merrill and company have unlocked the offensive versatility the Cavaliers could not find last season. Giving up on Merrill entirely once Garland and Mobley return would be a sorely regrettable decision.
For now, the Cleveland Cavaliers should be overjoyed with their sudden success. When Garland and Mobley return, Cleveland will be positioned for a strong push in the latter half of the regular season thanks to the contributions of each of these players and more.